Does Architecture Pay Well?

Like anyone starting in a new field, any budding architect making their first steps into the profession will want to know how much they can expect to be paid. After all, as interesting a profession as architecture is, it’s nice to know you’ll be able to make a decent living.

Of course, this will largely depend on what the location of the position is, and what the job entails. But, for each position, there are good indications from existing positions of the various salaries available in architecture.

With this in mind, let’s find an answer to the question: does architecture pay well and how does it compare to other jobs?  

Read on to find out how architecture salaries compare to other industries, what determines the salary of an architect, and how people in the profession can boost their salary.

But first, let’s further explore how much architects and people in other architecture jobs get paid.

How much do people in architecture get paid?

In truth, there’s no one figure for how much people in positions across the architecture field get paid. The salary that you may be able to earn depends largely on a range of factors, including experience, job title and location.

That said, there are some average salary statistics that are a good indication of what you may expect to earn. For example, architects who have around five years of experience or more can usually expect to earn around £41,489 ($51,500), with those on fewer than five years around £35,000 ($43,000).

Further up the scale, those at the top of the hierarchy at architectural firms may earn anywhere from £56,000 to £132,000 ($70,000-$164,000) or even more. People earning this amount will typically hold the title of partner, director or associate, whereas managers and consultants typically earn between £41,000 ($51,000) and £55,000 ($68,000).

Meanwhile, if you’re just beginning your journey in the architecture profession as a graduate or apprentice, you can generally expect to make around £20,500 ($25,000) to £26,000 ($32,000) annually as a Part 1 Architectural Assistant. This will usually rise to £32,000 ($40,000) upon gaining the RIBA qualification.

Asides from architects, architectural assistants and their senior management, there are more specialised jobs which should also be noted. For example, sustainability consultants working with an architectural firm may earn £30,000 ($37,000) on the lower end to £55,000 ($68,000) on the higher end.

And, other specialists such as architectural technicians and technologists can earn a similar amount depending on what type of task they are overseeing.

Of course, as with all salary differences, the figure in question depends not just on what the job is but also where the job is posted and what the hiring company’s circumstances are. Indeed, there are external factors at play too, such as what general market conditions are at the time of posting. 

So, now we have got to the bottom of what you may expect to earn across different positions with architecture, let’s narrow it down by analysing the role people most associate with architecture: architects. 


Are architects rich?

The answer to whether architects are rich is that, yes, while some architects at the top of the profession have become rich as a result of their work, it is not known as an especially high-paying field. That’s not to say it pays poorly either, as most salaries are within a comfortable living wage, but it may not be one to make you a millionaire.

Typically, architects spend years dedicating their efforts to learning architectural practices and becoming established in the field. This means, for the first few years of their careers, salaries are usually on the smaller side compared to other professions like economics.

However, given enough time, there’s no doubt that there is definite scope for architects to become rich should they progress well in their careers. As already mentioned, senior architects and consultants make a comfortable living, even if the major salaries are usually reserved for partners and directors.

Indeed, some of the world’s richest architects can earn millions upon millions through their work. The highest-paid architect in the world, Norman Foster, who came up with the design for the Gherkin, is estimated to be worth around $240 million!

So, studying to become an architect may well give you the opportunity to become rich. But, it’s worth remembering that architecture is primarily a creative venture, and as such people who work in it usually do so as a result of their love of the artistic freedom it awards them. 

In other words, by being an architect, you may find richness in other ways than just by the money you make. 

How do architect salaries compare to other jobs?

Compared to all the full-time jobs across the U.K., architects earn around 34% more per year than the national average. However, this is also approximately true of all employees working in professional industries, indicating that architect salaries broadly match those of other similar fields.

That said, there are some high-paying professions that architecture typically can’t match when it comes to pay. For example, the engineering, IT sector and financial sector often offer workers salaries of £50,000+ ($62,000) after just a few years experience. Indeed, a senior accountant with five years experience can expect a salary of around £90,000 ($112,000).

However, it’s also true to say that architects earn a greater salary as a whole than those working in the retail or public sector, as well as in other artistic fields such as graphic design. And, they typically have greater earning potential in the process toward the top end of the industry. 


What is a good salary for an architect?

As in any profession, there is no definitive good salary for an architect – this really depends on factors like experience, location and the firm in question. That said, £35,000 ($43,000) to £50,000 ($62,000) is generally considered to be a salary that represents a comfortable standard of living for an established architect. 

For a more senior architect, salaries increase to beyond £50,000 ($62,000), and can rise to over £80,000 ($99,000) or more. By anyone’s measure, this would be a good salary in terms of financial security and comfortability. Those who become directors or partners may earn even more. 

Why are architects paid what they are?

So, if you’re thinking that architects may not be paid as much as you first thought, it’s important to bear in mind a few factors. That is, to explain why architects can be paid a sizable salary in certain circumstances, but a relatively modest one compared to some other professions.

One reason why architects can be paid well for their work is the level of expertise they hold. Architects have to go through extensive training and education, not only completing a degree in architecture, but also undergoing internships and work experience to gain practical knowhow. 

Put simply, gaining the expertise needed to be an established architect is a long process that takes a lot of concerted effort. This is reflected in the comfortable salaries that experienced architects earn. 

Indeed, the key skills that architects possess are undoubtedly vital in the building and planning process. Without their expertise in navigating building codes, understanding design principles and overseeing complex construction, we wouldn’t have any of the buildings we know and love today. As such, their value is reflected in their monetary earnings.

Of course, as with any profession, salary levels can rise and fall depending on numerous factors, including seniority, location and market demand, which greatly impacts how much architects are paid. Generally, architects that are entrusted to work on the biggest projects with the most funds allocated to them are likely to earn the biggest salaries.

But, with all of these factors considered, it’s still true that architecture is not as high a paying profession compared with other similarly crucial fields. So why is this the case?


Why aren’t architects paid more?

The answer to why architects aren’t paid more can be attributed to a number of factors, but the most commonly stated is simple supply and demand. Put short, architects are not needed as urgently or as frequently as workers in other professions such as lawyers or doctors.

There are other reasons, too. Another major factor is that architect firms are constantly competing to offer lower fees than their competitors. Of course, lower fees means less money passed down to architects once work has been completed. 

Indeed, there have been debates within the architecture community as to how this issue can be improved. Some say it’s a perception of worth, and that gradually commanding higher fees will lead to an increase across the board, whereas others say architects should experiment with other types of costing, such as hybrid fees.

In any case, if you find yourself working at an architect’s firm and wishing you could increase your paycheck, there are some extra steps that you can proactively take.

How can architects increase their salary?

Working a salary increase for yourself is one of the hardest things any employee can do, not just those in architecture positions. However, there are some strategies for architects to employ:

  • Diversify your experience: there are a lot of different pathways in architecture. Constantly seeking new avenues of architecture to explore, whether it be in design, modelling, or another field, is the best way to ensure that you gain the expertise needed to level up your salary. 
  • Accept more responsibility: if there are any new opportunities for extra or different work at your firm, don’t be afraid to volunteer. Accepting responsibility for larger projects, especially those where you can exhibit leadership, will prove to your employers that you have the skillset and attitude to progress into more senior positions, where the salary will be higher. 
  • Networking: building relationships within the architecture industry can prove particularly beneficial in boosting your career opportunities. Going to career events, attending industry talks or even connecting on social media can give you helpful insights into how other people are making the jump into high paying jobs. 
  • Wage negotiation: it’s never easy, but wage negotiation is something that is incredibly useful to master. Should you be in a situation where you are trying to bargain for a higher salary than what is being offered, arm yourself with related market salary figures and remind your employer what your unique value is. This should help to stand you in good footing for a potential increase. 

That’s it for our guide to whether the architecture profession pays well as a whole. Of course, while it’s not possible to give a definitive answer due to the many extenuating factors involved, we hope this guide has illustrated what you can expect as you embark in your career. 

And, if this guide has made you want to know more about architecture, why not explore our guide to the difference between civil engineering and architecture.

Or, if you’d like more definitions on building and architecture vocabulary, explore our selection of building wikis, including a definition of tuned mass dampers.

Last Updated on 19 May 2023 by Michael